Blog Post Four – Tackling Aches And Pains
Hi to all
It has been a dream to get out on the bike for the past few weeks with the weather as mild as it has been, and I’m sure there are a few diehards out there, myself included, that have managed to get out for at least an hour or two.
At this time of year we nearly always find the aches and pains hurting that little more. However, we should listen to our bodies as they could be trying to tell us something is wrong.
Some of the little aches and pains could be telling us about little adjustments that we need to make to our bike set-up. We will cover the most common of those and how to alleviate them in this edition of the Bootcamp Blog.
First of all, most of us probably have been out on the bikes for a few weeks now and you will notice that the further that you travel, the more likely you are to have some aches and pains in the muscles and joints. However, taking the normal pains aside, we can break the others into two groups, one is contact points and the other is everything else.
In this blog we will deal with contact points and in the next instalment (Part 4), we will cover the rest of the body.
We have five points of contact with the bike, two hands, two feet and one bottom!
We will deal with the hands first
Hand pain is quite common among cyclists covering long distances and beginners alike. The most common cause of hand pain is Ulnar Neuropathy, this causes numbness or tingling in the hands, usually starting in the little and ring fingers. There are two reasons for this. The first is easily solved, you have been keeping your hands in the same position for far too long, so a simple answer is to change your hand position every few miles to relieve the issue. The second cause is from road buzz and vibration through the bars. To solve this issue the simple solution is to buy a pair of cycle gloves with gel pads on the palm and to fit gel bar tape to the handlebars. This will lessen the vibration felt by the hands and wrist. The other option is to change the stem on your handlebars shortening your reach and putting your weight back into the saddle. Personally I would try the first two options before changing out the stem, saving quite a bit of money in the process.
The most common type of foot pain for cyclists generally falls into two categories- hot spot/friction injuries and compressive injuries. Hot spots and blisters are typically created by friction – sweating, swollen feet with consistent rhythmic force being applied to them for hours on end is almost guaranteed to cause friction and pressure injuries to the soft tissues of the foot. Well fitting footwear, good quality wicking socks (that conform to the PRO requirement of a 6inch cuff which rises smoothly to the first bulge of the calf!), non-slip footbeds, appropriate cleat positioning and bike setup will almost always clear these problems up.
Compressive injuries (like numbness, sharp stabbing pain) can occur due to footwear that is ill fitting (particularly across the ball of the foot which causes compression and squeezes the delicate neural structures within the foot), small surface area on the pedal, the sole of the shoe, and again poor cleat positioning.
These foot problems are typically easy to resolve with appropriate equipment selection- footbeds with metatarsal buttons, good personal hygiene, good bike fit and well fitting shoes. Internet shoe shopping has created many problems with people compromising on fit because they cannot try different makes, models and sizes of shoes. Cycling shoes are designed for different purposes and different shaped feet. As much as we may like Brand A they may not be the right shape for our feet and can cause injury. Trying on shoes prior to purchasing is very important; it is the only way to determine if the shoe fits!
This is nearly always down to equipment or clothing choices, so not too much of a pain in the bum after all.
Here are six quick tips to bottom bliss.
- Build up slowly: While there’s little doubt that over time your backside does appear to ‘toughen up’, ignoring saddle soreness is a bad idea. Pushing through it as a macho rite of passage will lead to endorphins masking the warning pain, possibly resulting in more serious issues.
- Get out of the saddle: Even when not climbing, get out of the saddle every 10 to 15 minutes or so to restore blood ﬂow.
- Check positioning: A proper bike ﬁt, especially seat height, can make a real difference and minimise side-to-side movement on the saddle.
- Proper attire: (This is a whole blog on its own and we will deal with this topic quite soon), a good pair of shorts with a well-designed pad is the most effective prevention strategy. Combine with chamois cream to reduce friction.
- Hygiene: Keep things clean down below to minimise the risk of infection. Never re-use a pair of shorts without washing them and don’t sit around in damp and sweaty shorts after a ride. Some chamois creams contain a mild/natural antiseptic such as witch hazel; make sure to use them on all chamois.
- Saddle choice: Every backside is, of course, different, but there’s a saddle out there to suit everyone. Don’t be fooled into thinking that big and padded is best, sometimes ultralight razor blades can be the most comfortable perch. Also, with time, your saddle will break-in and mould to you. This last factor does, I believe, contribute to the ‘backside toughening up’ phenomenon. …
A good saddle will prevent most butt pain, as I said padded like an armchair isn’t always best. Once your sit bones are well supported your saddle shouldn’t cause you many problems. Some saddle manufactures have introduced a sizing system for saddles and no matter what model of saddle you go for, you get the right size for you, making it even easier to get armchair comfort while spinning round the countryside on a razorblade thin saddle.
Next time we will be covering shoulders, neck, back and knees, so until then stay safe on the roads.